Talking to your child about sex and teenage pregnancy

Young people who can talk about sex with their parents tend to delay having sex and are more likely to use contraception when they do. However, you may find the idea slightly awkward, or you may not know where to start. Here are some tips to help you on your way.

Talking to children about sex

Talking about sex to your child doesn’t mean you are encouraging them to have sex. The best way to start talking about sex is to:

  • start when your child is young, as waiting until puberty can make it awkward
  • make talking about sex a part of everyday life, not just a one-off talk and keep the conversation going as they get older
  • use everyday media to start conversations - soaps, adverts, television programmes, magazines - then you can talk about other people which is sometimes easier
  • use books, leaflets and websites (some are listed below) if you need information or ideas on how to start talking
  • recognise that as your child grows, they need privacy and may not always want to talk to you
  • talk to other parents about how they answer questions and discuss difficult issues

Talking about sex and pregnancy with teenagers

You may want to talk to your teenager about a number of things to do with sex and pregnancy. These might include waiting to have sex, contraception, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the effects of having a child while they are still at school.

There are many ways you can help:

  • find out what education they are getting in school about sex and relationships
  • provide them information and advice on the subjects not covered at school
  • offer to go with your teenager to the doctor or sexual health clinic to discuss any issues about contraception
  • make sure they know about STIs, and know how to stay safe
  • support your teenager as they deal with the emotions of a first intimate relationship
  • talk about the importance of considering the feelings of others in relationships, and not just the biology

You may find that your teenager does not have the same values as you when it comes to sex. Try not to let this bother you - it's just a normal part of them growing up.

For resources, leaflets and advice available you can contact:

Cara-friend is a voluntary organisation providing befriending, information and support services to lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Northern Ireland. The organisation also provides services to families, including a peer support group for parents.

The criminal law and young people

If you have been the victim of rape or have been sexually assaulted, you do not have to cope with that experience on your own. There are many people and organisations to help you, whether you want to talk about what has happened or want practical help.

If your child is pregnant

If your child tells you that they are pregnant or that their girlfriend is pregnant, the most important thing to do is stay calm. You will need to support the teenage mother in whatever decisions she makes.

The first step is to see her doctor or young people's service. They will confirm the pregnancy and tell her about services in the area for pregnant teenagers. Hospitals and health visitors often have services for teenage mothers. Some services have counsellors who will be able to explore how she feels about her pregnancy and give impartial information on her options.

School

The Department of Education expects all schools to be supportive of pupils who become pregnant. Pregnant and parenting schoolgirls should be treated the same as any other pupil. They should be helped to complete compulsory education and stay in education beyond school leaving age if they wish.

Pregnant and parenting school girls are expected to go to, health permitting, the school at which they are registered. There is a support programme to meet the needs of these young women, including child care.  

You can get more information from the website below:

Your rights and your child's rights

Health professionals will always encourage sexually active young people to talk to their parents about their situation. However, young people have the same rights as adults when it comes to confidentiality. This means that a doctor does not have to tell parents when a young person seeks contraception or sexual health advice and treatment.

In some cases, health professionals may decide to refer a case to social services. This might happen if there is a large age difference between the two people involved, or if there is evidence of abuse. When dealing with cases involving younger teenagers, it will often be decided that there is a risk of harm and social services will be called.

Rights of the father

An unmarried mother automatically acquires parental responsibility for her child. Parents who are married at the time of their child's birth will also automatically acquire parental responsibility.

However, an unmarried father will not have parental responsibility as of right. He can, however, acquire parental responsibility, for example by jointly registering the child's birth or by asking the court to make a parental responsibility order.

Joint registration only applies to births after 15 April 2002. It is not possible to acquire parental responsibility for a child born before 15 April 2002 by re-registration.

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